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Brad Marchand may be remembered this season mostly for missing not one, but two wide open nets during the Detroit series. Because of that, his goal-less streak in the Playoffs sits at a hefty 20 games—he scored 2 goals in the 1st period of Game 2 during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against Pittsburgh. You remember his last goal, right?.. You know, the one where he tussled with Matt Cooke before heading down ice to receive a Patrice Bergeron pass and roof it glove-side on Marc-Andre Fleury? Those were the days.
Overall, his point production was down in 2013-14. After leading all Bruins with 36 points in 45 games last year (.800 points per game), many thought he’d break out as the Bruins’ next 30-goal scorer. Instead, he netted a respectable-but-underachieving 25 goals and his points-per-game dropped to .646, both of which were Brad’s lowest since 2010-11. He also had a number of goonish moments on the ice, most notably Montrealing a knee-on-knee hit during the Detroit series, and the Vancouver incident where he mimed raising the Cup and kissing his ring. Come on Brad, that was three years ago. The matching celebratory tattoos you and Seguin got won’t fade, but the time window to brag about it did in 2012.
That being said, it hasn’t been all downhill for Marchand since then. Brad was bumped to the 3rd line for a few games early in the season, Reilly Smith didn't become a regular next to Bergy until December, and the original starter in Loui Eriksson was in and out of the lineup—there was a decent amount of feeling out his teammates to be done. Aside from a lagging start to the season, and a lull following the 18-day break for Sochi, Marchand was sneakily very productive in 2013-14, especially during the middle of the season. He peaked in January, with 14 points in 13 games, and also helped lead the team going into the postseason, finishing with 10 points in his final 10 games. Not to mention this was Marchy’s first full 82-game season in the NHL. That’s right—he didn’t get suspended!
Brad was on what was arguably the Bruins’ most productive line all year long. Bergeron netted 30 goals, and Reilly Smith had 20 of his own in his rookie season. Marchand was a big part of that. Even strength, Marchand had the most primary assists on the Bruins, even ahead of David Krejci. He also finished first on the team in setup passes that directly resulted in a SOG. He was 3rd on the team in Individual Points Percentage at 74.5 percent, meaning every 3 out of 4 goals Marchy was on the ice for, he had a part in.
Not only was Marchand 2nd on the team in 5v5 Points60—amount of points per 60 minutes played when 5-on-5 (2.24, behind Bergeron’s 2.27)—but he was a monster short-handed. When that same statistic is applied to the penalty kill, Marchand was far and away the best on the team with a 2.38 Points60. You’re reading that correctly. Brad Marchand racked up more points on average for the TOI he spent on the penalty kill than he did even strength. But I’ll let this play demonstrate that statistic for itself…
While very few players had an up-and-down season—a daunting task on a President’s Trophy-winning team—Marchand was down, then up, before becoming truly Marchand-like. Once he got over the fear of his own reputation, and the pressure to
get on Team Canada help Bergeron get on Team Canada, he returned to his game. 32 of his 53 points came in the 40 games played after the Team Canada roster was announced. He was a pest, who made teams pay for their mistakes, got into dirty areas, and played like the "little ball of hate" that makes Bruins fans love him, and everyone else in and around the NHL despise him.
But we can't overlook his postseason performance. He disappeared in the Blackhawks series last year, got in position but ended up 0-for against Detroit, and after a great start to the Montreal series, had 0 points in his final four games to end the season. During the Cup run Brad had 19 pts in 25 games, and hasn't touched that level of production since. This, above all else, puts him in danger of being moved this offseason.
The question becomes, how should we look at Marchand? In 2012-13, he was on pace for a 35-goal season. But throughout his career the numbers show he's just as productive as a playmaker. He has great goal-scoring potential, but if his linemates combine for 50 and he's setting up the majority of them, does it really make a difference? David Krejci has plenty of goal-scoring ability, but is much more dangerous as a setup-man. Does Marchand fill that role on the 2nd line?
With the Olympics now behind him, and his contract signed for 3 more seasons, I expect the No. 63 from second half of the 2013-14 season to be the Marchand we’ll see a lot more of going forward. He’s got the grit of a guy who was taken in the 3rd round, and worked his way from the AHL to the 4th line and further up. But now his cap hit matches the likes of Max Pacioretty, David Backes and Scott Hartnell. He's got the potential to get there, he just needs to go out and get it done.